Tea smuggling, c.1737
Catalogue reference: CUST 41/42

For the King The King
Thomas Warde
Indicted on the 10th Section of the late ˆ Indempnity Act for carrying fire Arms in order to be Aiding and Assisting in running prohibited and uncustomed Goods.
Sussex The Indictment sets forth that the Prisoner at the Bar & several other persons to the Number of three or more since the 24th of June 1736, to wit, the 28th day of February in the 10th year of his present Majesty's reign at Bexhill in this County feloniously were assembled and Armed with fire Arms & other offensive Arms & Weapons, to wit, with Blunderbusses Pistolls Cutlasses Sticks & Clubs in order to be aiding & Assisting in the carrying away uncustomed Goods Against the peace of our said Lord the King his Crown & Diginity & Against the form of the Stature in that case made and provided.
Not Guilty Pleaded
The Case

The Prisoner at the Bar is one of the Infamous Gang of Smugglers that belonged to Groombridge & Strick terror unto the whole Country and is Usually called Bulverhith Tom-In January he was sent over Sea as Merchant to buy a Cargo of Tea & to bring the same over in a Folkstone Smugling Vessell And it was Agreed to Land the same at a place called the Great Groyns in the Parish of Bexhill - The 28th of February 1736. Robert Morton the head of this Gang with about 20 More Armed with Blunderbusses Pistolls & other Arms went cross the Country down to the Sea side and at the appointed place found the Boat & the Prisoner in it with about 30 or 40 hundred Weight of Tea - Immediatly the Gang with the Prisoners Assistance unloaded the same and then the Prisoner had a Blunderbuss delivered to him and the[y] Carried about 80 hundred Weight of Tea Cross the Beach to an adjoyning Wood and went back for the remainder and as they were preparing to Load the Same on their horses Several Custom Officers & Soldiers came down upon them and a Skirmish ensued and a Great many fire arms discharged & three of the Smugglers horses were killed & John Catt one of the Gang taken Prisoner who was afterwards try'd convicted and transported for this offence-The rest of the Gang went to the wood and Loaded up the Tea these Secured on their horses and being all arm'd carried the Same cross the Country to Groombridge


  To prove the Case and that the Def[enden]t assisted in Landing the cargo of Tea & afterwards carrying it through the Country with the rest of the Gang & that he was Arm'd with a Blunderbuss.

Rob[er]t Pope
Will[ia]m Weston

Note Pope and Weston the two Witnesses were part of the Gang of Smugglers & have been Indicted for this offence but a Noli Prosequi from the Attorney General is entred upon Record
  The Prisoner is a very Notorious Smuggler & Since the Indempnity Act has been Guilty of Several Offences of the like Nature, as this in the Indictment & can be proved by these Witnesses but we hope this is Sufficient to convict him

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